This story concerns adult and teenage gay males who may be involved in sexual situations. If it is illegal for you to read such stories, or if you do not like to read such stories, please leave now.

This story is copyright 2006 by the author who retains all rights.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

WARNING!! This chapter contains a violent remembrance by one of the characters. It is told as a story, as the character refuses to believe he was the victim. The author does not condone physical violence when committed as part of a sexual act. The scene takes place in this story for character development and disposition. Whether you agree, or not, bad things happen and sometimes there is a lesson in the occurrence. The author apologizes to those who are offended by violent acts occurring in his stories and understands if you choose not to continue following this story.

This is my third submission to Nifty. My previous submissions can be found in the High School section under Kiel’s Story. Any comments or questions are welcome at:

A warm thank you goes out to all who write. I appreciate knowing someone is actually reading this stuff, whether you like it or not. I try to answer all emails, even flames. (I’m a writer, I live for rejection.) Although sometimes it takes a little time to get back to you, I do try to answer. If I'm remiss in replying to yours, I apologize.

The Pastel Cowboy

by Carl Holiday

Chapter 6 – Gay Pride

Zach spent most of Sunday with Steven. When he got to the apartment Steven was neatly dressed in pressed khakis and a short-sleeved, green dress shirt, but had sandals on his feet, though he was wearing white socks. Steven directed Zach up to Capitol Hill to a small parking lot beside a quaint, gray stone church. Steven slipped two tightly folded dollars bills into the pay box and they went inside. There couldn’t have been more than fifteen parishioners sitting in two rows of pews that could easily hold a hundred. Zach heard the organ and felt his body relax. They sat up close to front where all the others were sitting. A few more people showed up before the pastor came out and sat on a chair beside the organist.

Zach hadn’t been in a church for nearly a year. He hung his head as tears freely dribbled out of his eyes. He felt Steven’s arm across his back and he leaned into his friend for comfort. All of the hate and disgust he’d been subjected to back in Carruthers paled in comparison to the peace he felt at that moment.

With teary eyes, Zach stood with the parishioners and sang the opening hymn,

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
We have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

The words overwhelmed his heart and Zach broke down into gut wrenching sobs. He couldn’t bear listening to anymore of the hymn and pulled away from Steven’s embrace and ran for the door. He sat out on the stone steps bawling in the warm morning sun. He heard the organ and the parishioners’ words jumble together as one hears a symphony with different instruments playing slightly different melodies that dynamically join together into one sound. He felt a muscular arm across his shoulders and looked over to see the pastor sitting beside him. A faint smile broke across Zach’s face.

“I was excommunicated last year because members of my church, including my parents, believed I was gay,” Zach blubbered. “They didn’t ask me if it was true. They didn’t pray for me. They didn’t do anything except push me out of their lives.”

“You’re welcome here. You’d be surprised how welcoming God can be to lost souls. Come on, let’s go back inside.”

Zach allowed the pastor to help him to his feet and sank into the man’s embrace. A good hug is sometimes worth more than a few words. When they separated he daubed his eyes with his handkerchief and noisily blew his nose.

“You’re too big of boy to be crying,” the pastor said.

“I didn’t start until I fell in love,” Zach said.

“With the boy you came with? He seems kind of young.”

“He’s in his early twenties. He’s a graduate student at North Park College. He fools a lot people.”

He figured the pastor didn’t need to know Steven purposefully starved himself to look young. Nor, was it necessary to say that Steven sold his body to old men who liked to imagine they were messing with a little kid. It was more than enough to admit he was in love.

“He reminds me of a boy I met a couple years ago,” the pastor said as he held the door for Zach. “Maybe it’s the same guy. I suppose if you don’t look too close and don’t expect him to hiding his true age, you’d never really know, would you?”

“He fooled me the first time,” Zach said. The singing had stopped and the organ had gone back to playing a medley of familiar hymns.

The service progressed with the usual toned down evangelical liturgy. Zach slipped a fifty into the offering plate that had mostly loose change and a few ones; and after the offering, the lesson, and another hymn the pastor went to the pulpit.

“I had a sermon this morning, but I believe the Lord wants me to speak on something entirely different,” the pastor began. “Please open your Bibles to Galatians 3:22. Paul is speaking to the Galatians, who have come under the influence of teachers of Jewish law, which many people today seem to selectively rely on when condemning certain other people in our community. The Word says, ‘Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.’ ”

Zach wanted to listen. He knew the passage, but his church said that passage was meant to be taken figuratively, not literally, which was just another way to pick apart the Word. First, break the Bible into verses so you can read some and ignore others. Then decide which verses are to be taken as truth, which means the other verses are merely advice. The laws are in the Book, therefore, they are meant to be followed. Well, some of them.

Both Steven and he took Communion when the grape juice and unleavened wafers were passed through the pews. He knew in his heart the Bible said wine, but this church chose ignore that word and served unfermented grape juice which would have spoiled in Jesus’ time. He also knew that in Jesus’ time most wine was cut nearly in half with water, diminishing the effects of the alcohol, but today’s Christians ignored that, too.

After the service, he remained in the pew trying to decide if it was necessary to return. He didn’t know these people, nor was he completely comfortable with their brand of hypocrisy. Being thrown out of his church had given him the opportunity to look for God in places other than a white clapboard building at the corner of South Second and Lincoln in Carruthers, Oklahoma. He’d read his Bible, cover to cover, looking for answers, but only finding comfort in the words. His God was here in this church, but probably most of the parishioners didn’t recognize Him. What he liked most, though, was not being put out because he might be gay. That was as good a reason as any to come back.

The rest of the day was spent down on the waterfront looking at the sights, eating shellfish, and just hanging out with Steven. They took the ferry over to Bremerton, but came right back. The ride was for the novelty more than going somewhere else to look at more touristy shit. Mostly, though, Zach felt restrained by being in church that morning. He’d pretty much given up on the idea that he could get with others who believed as he did because he’d been forced to come up with his own answers. He believed and for him that was nearly enough, but he also knew he’d go back, at least for the almond macaroons someone brought for fellowship after the service.

On Monday morning, Zach watched Jerry walk into the classroom. He glanced over and their eyes met for a moment. Then Jerry went over to his usual seat. He looked happier than Zach remembered causing Zach to suspect Jerry and Bruce had taken the first few steps toward intimacy. He couldn’t decide if he was happy or sad.

At the end of class, Zach wasn’t certain he was ready to spend the lunch hour with Jerry and Bruce. One or the other would be fine, but it was going to be difficult sitting at the table with both of them. He looked up from his desk and saw everyone was gone except Doctor Jeffers who was standing at the door.

“Bud tells me you were instrumental in rescuing his grandkids this weekend,” Doctor Jeffers said.


“My friend, Charles McDonald, I’ve called him Bud since we were roommates as freshman in college.”

“Sara’s grandfather?”

“Yes, Sara’s grandfather. Do you know why she wasn’t in class today?”

“I’m sure you know her father was arrested Saturday. I spoke with her last night. They’re moving a lot of things from their home over to her grandfather’s house. She said she’d be here tomorrow.”

“Can I ask you something?” Doctor Jeffers said. He was biting his lower lip. Zach looked at him and smiled. “Would you consider going with me to Gay Pride on Saturday?”

“What’s Gay Pride?”

“A little celebration the gay community puts on every year. There’s a parade and a street fair. It allows us to get out, no pun intended, and admit to the world we’re proud to be gay.”

“Why would anyone want to do that? My life was destroyed by people who simply assumed I was gay. Right now, I could be looking forward to a very promising football career. I had a very good chance of going to Oklahoma, Arkansas, or, quite possibly, even Texas, and not some out of the way liberal arts college where you have to be accepted to the college before they’ll let you play football and there aren’t any scholarships anyway. You think I’d be proud to be in your silly parade. I’m fucking disgusted with you guys. Proud? Fuck! I can’t even talk to my parents or brothers or sister or their families. You guys fucked up my life and I bet you’re proud you did that, too.”

Zach stood there madder than he’d ever felt in a long time. Tears were streaming down his face and he wanted Steven very, very much; and, he was disgusted with that thought, but he knew deep down Steven could give him comfort he’d never find anywhere else.

Doctor Jeffers stared at him as if Zach had plunged a dagger in his heart. Zach realized he wanted to hit the man. His hands were clenched tight and his arm muscles tensed ready for the shoulder muscles to get in the act.

“Fuck you!” Zach exclaimed and ran for the stairs. He didn’t know where he was going, but he had to get out of that building and away from that happy queer.

Once down in the quad, he headed straight for the middle and stood at the triple junction of paved walkways seething, his mind a jumble of disconnected thoughts. Hate, love, disgust, anger, and fear struggled for dominance as his mind raced toward some hidden goal. He had to get away, but as his mind slowly put the discordant thoughts in some orderly sense, he bent over and tried to vomit. Only, there wasn’t anything to come up except for the disgust he felt for himself. No matter how hard he tried, Zach couldn’t throw up the hatred for what he was.

He looked up and saw Doctor Jeffers standing a few feet away. There was concern on his face, but he didn’t seem to want to get closer. He simply stood there, waiting.

Zach turned and saw a redwood bench behind him. There was a small plaque on the top rail of the backrest: “Given in memory of William S. Gay, ’21, by his loving son.” Zach smiled and sat down on the Gay bench.

“Doctor Jeffers? I’m safe now,” Zach said. “If you want, you can sit beside me.”

“You never let it out before, did you?”

“No, I just let them stomp me into the ground. I could’ve run. I could’ve gotten out of there and made a complete mess of my life, but I stayed and let them walk all over me so I could end up here with a chance to be better than those people. But, no, Doctor Jeffers, I am not proud to be gay. Not yet, anyway. Maybe someday I’ll be able to go to your parade, but not now.”

“It’s okay, maybe I’ll see you at the birthday party.”

“What birthday party?”

“Paul McDonald’s. You didn’t get an invitation?”

“Oh, Paul’s, yes, Jeremy told me about it last night when we talked. By the way, what do you get a thirteen year old city boy?”

“Don’t ask me, I’ve never had kids.”

“No nieces or nephews?”

“I’m an only child. I don’t even have cousins.”

“I guess I’d better have another talk with Jeremy. And, thanks, Doctor Jeffers for asking. I know you feel good about being gay, but I’m not able to, right now. Okay?”

“Sure, maybe next year.”

A little after six, Tuesday evening, Zach pulled his Ranger in behind Sara’s red Miata at the McDonald house on Foundry Ridge. In the daylight, the house looked bigger than it had Saturday night. There were rooflines connecting what Zach thought had been separate buildings. The house was simply huge. The style as he would learn later was a meld of North Coast Indian and Japanese designs with a lot of native cedar planks, broad eaves, low pitched roofs, and a lot of glass.

“Hi, Zach,” Jeremy said, suddenly appearing as if by magic at his door. “I bought you a present.”

“How’s my favorite sixteen year old?” Zach asked. He extricated himself from the pickup and shut the door. Jeremy held out a paper sack. Zach opened it and pulled out a skimpy piece of material. When he saw the Speedo logo Zach stared at Jeremy. “What’s this for?”

“To go swimming, of course,” Jeremy said. He unbuttoned his jeans and opened the fly. “See, I’ve got mine on already. Come on, maybe we can get in a few laps before Sara steals you.”

“Jeremy? You think I’m going to wear this?”

“What? Are you afraid your dick might show? I saw you in those jeans Saturday morning. Hurry up, I’ll help you change.”

Zach had to practically run to keep up with the boy as Jeremy led him into the house through a door beside the garage. Then down a long, broad hallway with windows on one side looking out over a well manicured lawn sloping down toward a large stand of tall conifers, the other side of the hall was decorated with watercolors. To Zach, as he hurried by, they all seemed to be by the same artist. There were double doors at the end, but Jeremy opened a side door that led into a smaller hallway with a number of doors along the right side and more paintings on the left. Jeremy opened the last door on the right.

“Hurry up, Zach, and get that shirt off,” Jeremy said as he kneeled down onto the polished concrete floor. “I’ll help you with your boots and socks and we’ll meet in the middle.”

They were in a dressing room with a long bench of vertical redwood slats along one side and a row of chrome clothes hooks on the other. Jeremy had Zach’s pant legs pulled up and was working on the left boot first. Zach had worn his work boots simply for comfort and because they didn’t have pointy toes, which Zach couldn’t stand wearing for more than a few hours. Jeremy had the first one off in a few seconds and was working on the second while Zach unbuckled his belt. He raised his feet a second time as Jeremy pulled off the socks.

Before Zach could react, Jeremy reached up and pulled Zach’s jeans and boxers down to his ankles. Zach raised a foot expecting Jeremy to pull them off, but the boy seemed to be more interested in Zach’s flaccid cock which hung comfortably over his balls. Jeremy took it in his hand and quickly awakened it by slowly stroking its length. It was only half hard when Jeremy put his mouth over the swelling head.

“Are you certain you know what you’re doing?” Zach asked, looking down at the top of Jeremy’s head. The boy was definitely doing something right because Zach’s cock was quickly stiffening from the boy’s attention.

“Oh, god, Jeremy,” Zach moaned as the younger boy’s lips began to move back and forth over a good portion of his cock. While one hand was positioned as a stopping point, the other was busy fondling Zach’s balls with one finger seeming to go off by itself toward that treasure trove at the other end of the perineum.

“If you don’t stop, I’m gonna come,” Zach said, putting his hands onto Jeremy’s head, running his fingers through the boy’s mop of nearly black hair. He held the head as his hips began to pump his cock into the boy’s mouth. Then he felt Jeremy’s errant finger find its goal. When it pressed firmly against the tight ring of muscle, Zach knew it was over.

He thrust in firmly and felt his cock explode. He looked down into Jeremy’s up turned eyes and smiled. He pulled back a little, but Jeremy moved his hand and took the subsequent volleys into his mouth. As the spasms slowly subsided, Jeremy’s finger continued to probe at Zach’s tightly closed gate as if searching for the key to more pleasure.

When Jeremy finally let go of Zach’s softening cock, he helped the older boy step out of his pants and underwear. Then he stood up and their lips met. The kiss was deep and full of youthful passion. Zach could taste the remains of his seed in Jeremy’s mouth and accepted it as special gift from the boy. He intended to return the favor as soon as he was able to remove Jeremy’s clothes.

“I didn’t tell you Sunday night when I called you, but Roger and I saw you and that other boy down on the waterfront,” Jeremy said as he pulled his t-shirt over his head. “Is he your boyfriend? The one who convinced you to sell your cherry?”

“Uh, yeah,” Zach said.

“Do you know how I felt when I saw the two of you all lovey-dovey with each other?


“I felt like shit. I thought Daddy kicked me in the balls when he laughed at me because I said I liked you, but seeing you with that other boy was far worse. Turn around!”


“I said turn around. I’m going to fuck the shit out of you. Come on, turn around.”

“No! Damn it! No! For one thing he’s not a boy. He’s twenty-two fucking years old. If you’d have gotten a little closer you’d have seen that. And, another thing, I like you. I think you’re a great kid, but I’m not going to let you push me around like your father tried to do. If you’re mad at me, hit me. Go on, hit me. That’s what your father would’ve done. Oh, and one more thing, what’s with the skimpy swim suit? Just a trick to get me in here so you can get your jollies by trying to humiliate me? Well, I’m sorry, Jeremy. I’m sorry you saw me with the man I love. I thought you and I might have something together. Nothing like what I have with Steven, but something special because I like you an awful lot. You were my first and I was your first. We’ll never have that, again. But, if you want to throw it all away because of some immature, childish jealousy, well, you can just go fuck yourself.”

Jeremy was crying by the time Zach got to the end of his tirade, but Zach ignored him and started to dress. He wanted them to be friends. He knew he was probably two-timing Steven, but Jeremy was a neat kid and Zach liked being around him. But, Jeremy was just a kid. He had two years of high school to get through and he might not be here next week. His mother could very well have the boys brought back to Switzerland to live with her. He was better off getting out of the kid’s life. He sat down to put on his socks, but Jeremy’s sobbing was getting to him. He stood up and took Jeremy into his arms.

“Come on, Jeremy, stop crying,” Zach said, kissing the boy’s tear stained cheek. “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you have to understand I love Steven. He’s very special to me right now, but you’re special, too. I’ll never have the same love towards you that I have with Steven, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for you. You’re nice and you’re a good fucker. I love the feel of your dick in my ass, but I’m not about to let you force me. I guess I’d better get out of here.”

Jeremy started that unnerving, sickening “nnng” sound so often heard from those who are trying to stop crying and start talking at the same time. Words are lost in mucous covered nasal passages and almost totally blocked by erratic breathing, so that nothing comes out except mushy sounds lacking any sense of pitch or tempo. Zach tried to break his embrace, but Jeremy held on so tight Zach reluctantly gave in and wrapped his arms around the boy.

He’d never felt this amount of anger and compassion at the same time. They seemed to be competing for dominance, while at the same time trying to meld into one emotion that burned deep in Zach’s heart. Could it be possible to love two people at the same time? He knew he almost positively loved Steven, but Jeremy was worming his way in, too. He suspected neither would accept the other, yet at the same time if he could convince Jeremy that it was possible for him to love them equally, but differently—because he knew his love for Steven was definitely different than his feelings for Jeremy—it might be possible to convince Steven, too.

“I love you,” Jeremy whispered between sobs and held Zach even tighter.

Zach couldn’t stop himself as tears began to dribble down his cheeks. His eyes and nose burned from hearing the boy say those words, but he, too, tightened his grip on the other. He wanted to say the words, but was afraid of the consequences to admit feeling the same toward the boy. It was more complicated than simply saying I love you. It had to be more complicated because he, also, loved Steven. He had no choice, though. He had to give in.

“Make love to me,” Zach whispered. “I want to feel you inside me. Come on, Jeremy, pull your swim suit down and love me.”

He released the boy and turned around, bent slightly at the waist and pressed his hands against the door.

“We don’t have any lube,” Jeremy whispered.

“Use spit. You’ve been crying long enough, it should be really slimy now.”

“Okay,” Jeremy whispered.

Zach let his mind wander as he tried to relax himself. He knew this was going to be uncomfortable, but he knew he wanted it as much as he knew Jeremy needed to do it. He felt the boy moisten his pucker and then the hard knob of the boy’s cock. Zach pushed and felt the boy slowly slip in. He kept pushing until Jeremy was fully imbedded.

“Go slow,” Zach said.

He could hear Jeremy softly weeping while the pull and push of the boy’s engorged dick began a steady, slow tempo that ever so slowly began to increase. Unexpectedly, Jeremy slapped Zach’s right thigh and then the left.

“Hey! What the hell is that for?” Zach said, probably louder than he should.

“For two-timing me,” Jeremy said. “Oh, god, Zach, your ass feels so good to me. I’ve waited for this for three days. I thought I was going to go crazy waiting for a chance to fuck you. Oh! Shit!”

The tempo sped up along with the force of the thrusts. Zach watched his cock fill out and quickly stiffen. He knew what was coming. The sensations of Jeremy’s cock were so incredible.

“Harder, Jeremy, fuck me harder,” Zach hissed, but it was too late as his orgasm took over and a wad of his come splattered against the door. The next hit a little lower down. He shut his eyes as his body uncontrollably shivered. Then Jeremy slapped his right thigh again, harder this time.

“Zach, I’m sorry,” the boy whispered and thrust in deeply. He put his arms around Zach’s abdomen and chest and Zach felt Jeremy’s orgasm shuddered through his body as the boy’s cock pulsed deep inside him. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Hi, what are you doing?”

“Watching TV.”

“Why aren’t you out on a gig?”

“Gay Pride, all the closet doors are open and everybody is happy. Sunday night the dumb fuckers will shut their closet doors and business will be back to normal. In fact, I’ve got two appointments Sunday night.”

“You’re not going to the parade and street fair?”

“Why? And, see half my customers? Hell, they’ll be wanting to duck into some alley for a freebie. No, I’m lying low this weekend.”

“Can I come over?”

“Did you finish studying?”

“Yeah, I have to finish my first draft for next Wednesday, but I’m done with everything else.”

“You sound depressed. Need to talk about it?”

“Maybe. Maybe I just want Stevie’s tiny, little boy arms around me.”

“Umm, sounds kind of kinky Davie. Didn’t know you were into little boys.”

“Just one. I’ll be there in half an hour.”

“More like forty-five minutes, you mean.”

Zach looked around his empty dorm room and wondered if he should consider renting a small studio apartment for fall term. He didn’t look forward to sharing the room with some snotty nosed kid fresh out of high school, unless, of course, the kid had a nice dick and wasn’t too certain whether it belonged stuffed up some girl’s baby hole or giving another guy a good time. He had to start planning for the eventuality of Jeremy drifting out of his life because that was going to happen whether Jeremy wanted it or not. As much as Zach wanted the boy’s dick right where it gave him the most pleasure, he didn’t want to play the kid’s mind games.

Jeremy was calling everyday now. At six in the morning to get Zach up and ready to go to class at eight. Then, again, at five-thirty when Zach got back to his room. The kid was head over heals in love with him and, the problem was, Zach was almost there, too. After their little to do Tuesday night, Jeremy was all forgiving to the point where Zach felt like belting the kid a good one just to repay him for the smartass slaps on his thighs when they were fucking. But, it was the inane conversations the kid tried to make with Zach. They simply lived in different worlds.

For the most part, Jeremy grew up in Switzerland with his mother. She was some sort of model who enamored Jeremy’s father in college. He had big bucks from daddy and made quite a show in Europe the summer after his senior year in college. Whatever he did to win her over must have been something because she bore him Sara, Jeremy, and Paul before figuring out the good hubby was nothing more than a middle manager who’d never, ever be chairman of the board. The big bust came when the trust fund paid out, only there were so many clauses—like don’t marry a floozie from Europe—hubby didn’t get more than a pittance while the bulk of the assets rolled over into trust funds for their kids. Hubby’s grandpa was a shrewd businessman who figured if you can’t get it right with one generation, invest in the next one, you’re bound to get it right eventually.

Hubby’s one saving grace was the dot com stock options his company kept doling out to him for outstanding performance. He knew what to do with them and they paid big time. By the time he walked out the front door, never to return, he was worth enough to afford a wife who lived in Switzerland with her lover and the kids. He could also afford the lawyers to get his kids back, whether they wanted to leave paradise, or not.

Jeremy spoke nearly fluent French, plus had a sizable vocabulary of Italian and German words and phrases to get by when running away from home, which he did too frequently for his own good. He simply thrived in Europe. His goal was to get into the Foreign Service and be posted back to Switzerland. Either that, or get hired by a Swiss company to be their token American to be put on display at corporate gatherings. He didn’t really care, as long as he could get back to where he felt at home. And, that, more than anything, put him on Zach’s drop list. The kid was sweet, but he outclassed Zach in everything.

Zach looked at the overnight bag in his hand and wondered when he’d packed the silly thing. He knew Steven didn’t want him staying over, but maybe subconsciously he was planning for the possibility he could worm his way into forcing Steven to relent, if only just this once. The thought of them sleeping together on the futon with Steven behind him, his tiny, little boy arm draped over him, and the man-size dick shoved between his thighs, made Zach’s cock throb with excitement.

Tomorrow afternoon he had Paul’s birthday party and thought of seeing Jeremy, again. That stiffened him quickly. His ass twitched in anticipation of the boy’s dick massaging the inside of his gut, while the boy’s hands softly caressed Zach’s body. He wondered if he could sneak Jeremy into his dorm. They’d be all alone and could fuck as long as they wanted, but he had to get those thoughts out of his mind. He had to get rid of the boy, whether he had a nice dick, or not. It wouldn’t work. Their relationship didn’t stand a chance of working out. Jeremy had two years of high school left. Then he’d be off to some fancy college back East. Except, Zach suspected he’d end up being matriculated at North Park. After all, Gramps was on the Board.

The drive took longer than Zach wanted, but Steven was waiting for him down in the garage. Zach left his bag in the front seat, not wanting to get into a fight with Steven right then. They lightly kissed each other and held hands as they walked to the elevator. Words seemed unnecessary, as both contemplated what was going to happen when they entered Steven’s apartment.

Except, Zach’s mind was still working on the Jeremy problem. He wanted everything to work out okay, but wasn’t all that certain what “okay” meant to him. He wanted Steven very much. He wanted Jeremy, too, but not as much as he wanted Steven. He knew he’d never be more than a passing fancy for Jeremy, but there was the risk their separation would hurt the boy and he didn’t want to do anything that might harm Jeremy, which simply meant he loved the boy. He cared for Jeremy’s welfare and happiness.

“What’s wrong?” Steven asked. They were sitting on the futon, but Zach didn’t remember coming into the apartment. Something was on the television. Maybe it was a DVD, Zach couldn’t tell. “What’s troubling you Davie?”

“That boy, the McDonald boy, Jeremy. I went to see him Tuesday night. He calls me everyday. Twice. Oh, god, Stevie, what am I going to do? I love you. I can’t love him, too, but I’m falling for him and I can’t stop myself.”

“I told you, you can’t love me, so what’s your problem?”

Zach stared at him. The matter-of-fact way he said it seemed cold almost as if Steven believed Zach couldn’t fall in love with him after everything that had gone on between them over the past two weeks. He was here at this moment anticipating an evening of wonderful sex with the man he loved, but that man suddenly acted as if there couldn’t be any love between them.

“Look, kiddo, Uncle David is paying me to look after you. Now, we might be doing some wonderfully sexy shit, but that doesn’t mean you have to love me. If I did it your way, I’d be in love with most of my regulars, but I’m not. I could care less whether they call me or not. They’re a bunch of losers who get their jollies fucking little boys. And, now, you’re doing the same thing only you’re giving out your ass for free. That little McDonald boy should be paying you big time for sticking his dick up your ass. Love? Fuck Davie, you don’t know shit about love. You want some popcorn?”

Zach stared at Steven wondering who this person was. This certainly wasn’t the same guy who’d fucked him Saturday morning. Nor, was it the guy who went to church with him and then spent the afternoon down on the waterfront doing touristy shit.


“Well, what?”

“Do you want some popcorn?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Then go down to the corner market and buy some. Hurry up and I’ll put on some porn. I got one where all the guys hardly look eighteen.”

When Zach returned Steven was wearing a baby blue Loretta Lynn t-shirt and black and red checked boxers. He’d lowered the back of the futon and extra pillows had been brought out from wherever Steven was hiding them. On the television screen a naked man was kneeling between two other men, one fucking his ass and the other fucking his face. Steven was trimming his toenails and seemed oblivious to what was happening on the screen.

“Do you mind if I get comfortable?” Zach asked. He walked into the kitchen and put a popcorn package in the microwave. While dutifully waiting, per the package’s instruction not to leave it unattended in the microwave, he began undressing. He’d purposefully worn boxers, knowing they provided immediate access if Steven became so inclined and, well, it kind of felt good leaving things on their own. There was a certain amount of inherent freedom knowing you weren’t bound up in tight briefs.

The popcorn package did its thing without fail and puffed up tightly about the same time Zach got everything off except for the boxers. He remembered Steven liked a little nipple play as an introduction to more serious foreplay and, besides, baring a chest was something you did in summer.

Zach pulled open the popcorn package and started opening cupboard doors looking for a big bowl for the popcorn, but Steven didn’t have any dishes or pots and pans. When he opened the refrigerator the light didn’t come on. He thought the light was out. Then he saw it wasn’t even turned on. There wasn’t any food in the kitchen, nothing to prepare food, and nothing to use to eat food. The perfect kitchen for someone who didn’t eat. Zach wondered how long it took Steven to ignore his body’s insistence for nourishment. He wondered how long it would take him to learn to live without eating.

“What took you so long?” Steven asked when Zach sat down next to him and put the popcorn package between them. Steven took one piece and began to nibble it while he carefully held it in his fingers.

“I was looking for a bowl, but I guess you don’t have any use for a bowl.”

“Never figured why. I never have enough food to put in a bowl. Those microwave packages seem good enough. This is pretty good popcorn. I wish they still made those little frying pan thingies. I liked to watch that aluminum bubble puff up. When I was little Mom had one of those poppers with a crank and I’d stand in a chair to make popcorn. They had an air popper, too, but I never liked that stuff. My Uncle Benny grew popcorn and left the kernels on the ears. Then he’d put the ear in a paper sack and microwave it. We’d drizzle melted butter over it and too much salt and eat it right off the ear. That was so neat.”

“You lived in the country, then?”

“No, in town. Dad grew up out on the ranch with Aunt Jenny and Uncle Benny. After graduating from Texas Tech, Aunt Jenny moved up here with her first husband and stayed when he left her for a younger girl in his office. Uncle Benny lives on about a thousand acres down toward Austin, but he has a couple Mexican families to take care of things. He’s a professor of mathematics at Texas. Dad stayed with the family business, but Mom didn’t want to live so far from any town, so he moved everything to Midland. Most of our property and wells were down that way so it seemed logical, I guess.”


“Oil, you know, Texas tea, or some such silly shit.”

“You’re rich?”

“No, I’m a fag. Daddy is a good Baptist and hates fags, especially the one who has half his genes. I have a trust fund Granddaddy set up for all the grandkids, but I don’t get anything, and I mean anything, until I’m thirty-five. Depending on how it’s invested it’ll probably be twenty million or so, but I’m penniless until then. Aunt Jenny slipped me a hundred or so every now and then when I was desperate, but I haven’t talked to her in a couple years. I lived with her when Daddy got rid of me. ‘I don’t have boys who get raped by homos.’ That’s what he said in the hospital when the doctor asked him if he wanted to see me. He left the hospital and told them not to send the bill to his house because he didn’t have a son named Steven.”

“What did you do?”

“Called Aunt Jenny and she had me flown up here. I was in the hospital for months. Then went to live with her. If you ever meet her, don’t say anything about the woman living with her. They’re not lesbians, they’re just good friends. They sleep in the same bed. They do everything together and have the wildest parties where only women get invited, but they’re not lesbians. She’ll slap you if you say that word around her. I know!”

“Aunt Jenny sounds kind of neat.”

“She lives on Lake Washington over by Bellevue. Maybe I should call her. You being a fag, too, will make it easier to get you in the front door. When I was in school I couldn’t bring other kids over to the house unless they were queer, too, and even then we had a problem with Stu. God, what a total dork he was. Good cocksucker, but worthless as a friend. Called Aunt Jenny a dyke to her face. She slapped him and told me I couldn’t be his friend. He called the fucking police, but we’re rich and have good lawyers. She was put on probation or something. Stu was history. Good cocksucker, though. Hey, you want me to buy you some beer?”

“Sure, but you’ll have to put some clothes on.”

“Just my jammies and slippers. Should I get you a forty pounder or a couple bottles of something good?”

“What’s good? I drink Bud, mostly.”

“Wow, you actually drink that shit? I’ll get us a few bottles of Moose Drool. It’ll probably knock your socks off, but since you’re not wearing any you’re safe. Right?”

“Moose Drool?”

“Yeah, you’ll like it.”

And, Zach liked it. By the third bottle he wasn’t in any condition to drive home. He simply laid down on the futon and went to sleep. At some point he was aware Steven trying to waken him, but he was too far gone to do anything more than to mumble an expletive and go back to sleep.

Zach awoke in the middle of the night. His eyes seemed to pop open as he struggled to place himself and it took him awhile to remember he was at Steven’s apartment on the futon; except, Steven wasn’t next to him or anywhere close. There weren’t any lights on, including any leaking out under the bathroom door, but light from the city streamed in through the slider to the deck casting a sickening orange glow on everything. Then he heard a whimper. He looked around the room and saw a form lying on the floor in what should have been the dining area, if there had been a table there.

There was another whimper, more distinct this time, followed by a soft insistent, “Noooo.”

Zach sat up and as his eyes adjusted to the dim light he saw that Steven was naked and there seemed to be a puddle of water around him. Only, the water had a distinct odor. Zach then saw Steven had his head on a small pillow and he appeared to be shivering. He got to his feet and went into the kitchen looking for paper towels.

Steven whimpered again, followed by a low, soft moan as if he was in pain. Another whimper came out followed by another, “Noooo.”

Zach found a package of six rolls of paper towels under the sink and took one roll into where Steven was lying. As Steven continued to whimper and moan, he knelt down and began to sop up the urine. It took quite a few towels to get the floor clean and Zach was feeling pretty good about being able to help his friend when he saw Steven suddenly go rigid.

“No! Stop! No! No! My name is Jake. Stop! Ricky. No! Dave. Stop! Steve. No! No, no, noooo.” Steven whispered through his teeth as if in extreme pain. Each word came out as more of a hiss than a spoken word. Then Zach smelled the unmistakable odor of shit. He got up and turned on the light over the stove and watched feces being expelled from Steven’s rigid body. He grabbed some more paper towels and went back to work.

Afterwards, Zach got down on the floor and sat beside Steven. He didn’t know what to do, so he pulled Steven’s light, limp body up onto his lap and held him trying to soothe whatever was troubling his friend.

“Davie? Are you still here?”

“Hush, Stevie, everything is alright.”

“I didn’t mess all over myself, did I?”

“I cleaned everything up, Stevie.”

“You’re good, you know that Davie? You’re good.”

“Hush, Stevie, go back to sleep?”

“Did I ever tell you the story about the Rodeo Fairy at the Midland Rodeo?”

“No, I don’t think you did?”

“He was a little boy like me. Cowboys like little boys. They remind them of little brothers. The Rodeo Fairy hung around where the cowboys waited for their turn. There was a lot of puking and some even went behind a pickup and shit because they were so nervous about riding bulls. A lot of them were lonely, missing mommy and daddy, and even little brother who they remembered messing around with.

“Five bucks a blow. Ten bucks a fuck. The Rodeo Fairy had it made. There weren’t a lot of boys in Midland who had the balls to work the rodeo, but the Rodeo Fairy had no fear.”

“Were you the Rodeo Fairy?”

“No, no, not Steven. No, Steven was not the fairy. Steven didn’t do that. No. You believe me, don’t you Davie? You know Steven couldn’t do that. It was the Fairy. He did that. Steve was queer, but not a fairy.

“The Rodeo Fairy didn’t know they were looking for him. He was famous on the circuit. Little boy suck your cock. Five bucks. Only, the Rodeo Fairy added fucking. Ten bucks a fuck.

“Hi, my name is Jake. You’re awfully young to be out here by yourself. Is your daddy around here?”

“You don’t look like a cowboy.”

“Didn’t fool you, huh? You’re pretty perceptive, kid. You seen a fairy around here?”

“What’d you have in mind?”

“How old are you?”

“How old do you want me?”

“How’d you like to come to a party? My friends have some beer back at our motor home. Like a beer, kid?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“The Rodeo Fairy went with my name is Jake. He’d never had beer. He’d never had booze. Smoked a little weed, but no booze. My name is Jake was older than the cowboys. Not old like his dad, but older than the cowboys. The Rodeo Fairy followed my name is Jake out to the motor home.

“The Rodeo Fairy followed my name is Jake into the motor home.

“Is this the fairy?”

“The one and only my name is Jake said as he turned around and backhanded the Rodeo Fairy who fell down on the floor. My name is Jake kicked the Rodeo Fairy in the gut.

“Thanks Dave my name is Jake said. My name is Jake poured whiskey into the Rodeo Fairy’s mouth, but the Rodeo Fairy didn’t swallow so my name is Jake held the Rodeo Fairy’s nose and the Rodeo Fairy swallowed the whiskey and gagged, but my name is Jake made the Rodeo Fairy swallow.

“My name is Jake picked up the Rodeo Fairy and hit the Rodeo Fairy in the stomach with his fist. The Rodeo Fairy flew up to the ceiling and watched my name is Jake pick up the little boy and throw him down on the floor. Show starts in a little bit boys my name is Jake said and took the little boy to the bedroom. The Rodeo Fairy flew in, following my name is Jake and the little boy. My name is Jake stripped the little boy and made the little boy bleed. My name is Jake stuffed the little boy’s underpants into the little boy’s mouth and made the boy bleed, again. Then my name is Jake left.

“Steve came in and hit the little boy. Then Steve made the little boy bleed. Then Steve left.

“Dave came in and hit the little boy. Then Dave made the little boy bleed. Then Dave left.

“Rick came in and made the little boy scream when Dave bit the little boy, but the sock in the little boy’s mouth prevented the little boy from screaming too loud. The little boy looked in Rick’s face and saw the little boy’s blood on Rick’s face. Then Rick made the little boy bleed. Then Rick left.

“The Rodeo Fairy wanted to get out but no one would open a door or window so the Rodeo Fairy could fly away. My name is Jake came back and hit the little boy real hard. Then my name is Jake made the little boy bleed, again.

“It was quiet for a long time. The Rodeo Fairy flew around the room but couldn’t find a way out of the room. It was quiet. It was quiet. The Rodeo Fairy couldn’t hear anything.

“My name is Jake, Rick, Dave, and Steve were sleeping. The Rodeo Fairy followed the little boy out the door. The wood chips cut the little boy’s feet as the little ran, but the little boy didn’t know which way to run. The little boy ran. The Rodeo Fairy watched the little boy run across the wood chips cutting the little boy’s feet. The little boy was bleeding.


“The Rodeo Fairy was on the ground. The Rodeo Fairy didn’t see the deputy sheriff’s car. The Rodeo Fairy was on the ground. The Rodeo Fairy was bleeding.

“Oh, my god!

“Who did this to you boy? Oh my god asked the Rodeo Fairy. The little boy pointed to the motor home.

“Davie? You don’t believe I’m the Rodeo Fairy, do you? I told you I wasn’t. You believe, right? Davie?”

“Hush, Stevie, hush. Go back sleep, Stevie. I’m here, I’ll protect you. Go back to sleep.”

Zach tightly held Steven to his chest trying to get images of Steven being brutalized in that motor home. He didn’t know what to do. This was beyond anything he’d encountered before. He remembered Steven telling him he’d been twelve when he had his first fuck, but was this Steven or some other boy he’d read about in the newspaper or heard about on the street in Midland. Holding Steven, Zach scooted himself back to the wall to have something to lean against.

Zach eyes snapped open. He was sitting on the dining room floor in Steven’s apartment. Steven wasn’t with him. He heard a voice. The bathroom door was closed. He rose to his feet and went over to the door.

“No, Aunt Jenny. . . . Please, I’m okay. . . . His name is Zach. . . . He’s good to me. . . . No, Aunt Jenny. . . . No. . . .”

Zach opened the door and saw blood. Then he saw Steven holding a cell phone to his ear and a tiny trickle of blood dripped off his elbow.

“Get out of here!” Steven yelled and held out the steak knife toward Zach who grabbed the little hand and wrenched the knife away from him. Steven sank to the blood splattered floor, cowering away from Zach.

Zach picked up the cell phone and listened. The he said, “Who’s this?”

“I’m Jennifer O’Brien, Steven’s aunt. Is this Zach?”

“He’s trying to kill himself, but the knife isn’t sharp enough. He has gashes all over his arms and legs, but he isn’t bleeding. I’ve got to call 9-1-1.”

“No! Listen to me, Zach. Calm down. Is Steven bleeding severely?”

“No, a lot but none of the wounds are squirting like he’d hit an artery.”

“Good, Pat called the hospital and they’re sending an ambulance to Steven’s apartment. They’re from a private hospital where Steven will be cared for. Are you his friend, or something?”

“My Uncle David hired Steven to be my friend. I know that sounds sick, but Steven and I have become good friends. He means a lot to me.”

“Okay, the ambulance will be there soon. You’ll have to let them in. Is Steven okay?”

“He’s on the floor like he’s afraid of me. Last night after he peed and shit on himself, Steven told me a story about a boy who’d been attacked in Midland, Texas. Something about a Rodeo Fairy.”

“Oh, god! He told you?”

“Yeah. That wasn’t him, was it?”

“Yes, but he told you. Steven must really like you. He’s told maybe three other people that story.”

“The door phone is ringing.”

Zach set the cell phone down on the counter and went into the living room. He pressed the key combination for the apartment building’s security door, unlocked the front door, and went back into the bathroom. Steven was lying on the floor tucked up into a fetal position. Zach pressed two fingers to Steven’s neck and felt a firm, steady pulse. He picked up the cell phone and listened.

“Are you still there?” Zach asked.

“Yes, are they there? Is Steven okay?”

“They’re coming up. I checked his pulse, it’s okay. Where will they take him?”

“Fir Grove Hospital, it’s across One Hundred Forty-third from North Park College.”

“The big, yellow brick mansion with the high stone wall around it?”

“Yes, do you know it?”

“I go to North Park and live in Boyle Hall. It’s across the street from me. I can see it from my room.”

“Then you can go see him. I want to thank you, Zach. Can you stay there? I need to make sure Steven’s apartment is okay.”

“Yeah, I’ll clean up and wait for you. I might step out for a moment because there isn’t any food in here.”

“When was the last time Steven ate?”

“He had maybe ten pieces of popcorn last night. I don’t know if he ate anything earlier. He’s real skinny. He looks starved.”

“Damn! That too? What was that noise?”

“They’re here. I’ve got to go.”

“See you in a bit, Zach.”

“You the guy’s boyfriend?” one of the ambulance attendants asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact,” Zach said, suddenly realizing he’d practically admitted being gay to a total stranger.

“He’ll be okay. He’s practically a regular. What’d he use this time?”

Zach pointed at the steak knife.

“Stupid fucker doesn’t want to die, just hurt. We see it all the time. Well, he’ll be living at our place for a while. You staying here?”

“Yes, his aunt is coming over. She called for you.”

“Oh, yeah, Doctor Jenkins lady friend. Will I see you up at Gay Pride today?”


“My group will be in the parade. I’m out, finally. My daughter will be marching with me.”


Zach watched them wheel Steven out the door and down the hall. He watched the man who said he was gay and wondered what group he belonged to.

Later that afternoon, when Zach drove the Ranger up into the McDonald house on Foundry Ridge, he saw Jeremy waiting for him. Jeremy didn’t look too happy. Zach figured somebody’s little brother was making too much of a big deal about who was turning thirteen today, but was a little scared when he found out the real reason.

“How’s the birthday boy’s big brother?” Zach asked as he climbed out of the Ranger. He was wearing khakis, a button-down blue dress shirt, and his snakeskin dress boots. He’d put up with the pointy toes just to look good.

“My grandfather wants to talk to you,” Jeremy said. “I’ll take the present and tell Paul it’s from you.”

“There’s a card,” Zach said, handing the wrapped present to Jeremy who stepped back as if he didn’t want to get too close. “What’s wrong?”

“He asked me this morning if we were doing it. I wasn’t going to tell. Honest, Zach, I didn’t mean to say anything, but he talks around things and before you know it you’re saying things you don’t want to. I know he’s going to yell at you and tell you you can’t see me anymore. I love you!”

“It’ll be okay, Jeremy. I’m sure your grandfather is doing everything he can to protect you.”

“It’s this way,” Jeremy said as he turned and walked toward the door beside the garage. Zach followed and could tell by the way Jeremy was breathing he was starting to cry. Inside the door, instead of turning right to the hallway to the pool, Jeremy opened another door. There was a staircase leading up.

“He’s up there in his hobby room,” Jeremy said as tears dribbled down his face.

Zach pulled the boy into a tight hug and whispered into his ear, “It’ll be okay. Jeremy, come on, it’ll be okay.”

Jeremy broke away from him and ran toward the house. Zach swallowed and climbed the stairs not knowing what was going to happen, but fearing the worst. At the top of the stairs there was another door, he lightly knocked then opened it. Inside there was a huge model train layout that took up most of the room. Zach figured it had to be at least twenty feet wide by more than fifty feet long. There were mountains, cities, and trains going every where. Doctor Jeffers was talking to an older man at the other end of the room.

“Ah, Romeo has decided to join us,” Doctor Jeffers said loudly, but even then Zach could barely hear him with all the noise from the trains speeding around the tracks and some sort of classical music coming from somewhere in the room. Zach looked for speakers, but couldn’t see any. There were a lot of skylights, but no windows. The walls and ceiling were painted white. Zach walked over to the men.

“Zach this is my friend Bud,” Doctor Jeffers said.

Zach held out his hand and gave a firm shake, “Nice to meet you sir.”

“See? Country to the core,” Doctor Jeffers said. “Not a mean streak in the boy. Well, I’ll leave you two. Be nice to him, Bud, I like him.”

Zach watched Doctor Jeffers leave then turned to the other man. He looked to be in his forties, but Zach knew he was at least as old as Doctor Jeffers. He’d obviously taken good care of his body. He was over six feet tall and built like someone who swam a lot, which might explain the pool. His balding gray hair was short, probably not more than a quarter inch long. His blue eyes sparkled, but he had a day’s worth of stubble all over his face.

“Well, let’s go in here and talk,” Bud said, leading Zach through a door and into a smaller room that looked to be a workroom for the train layout. There were shelves around the room with various railcars on tracks, a workbench, and two gray leather overstuffed side chairs. “Can I get you something to drink? All I have is juice or bottled spring water.”

“That’s alright sir,” Zach said uncertain whether he should sit or stand.

“Call me Bud, and, relax and have a seat,” Bud said sitting in one of the chairs. “My son is the hitter. I’m a lover, but you’re a bit too young for me.”


“Got ya!”

“I don’t understand, uh, Bud.”

“I’m probably a four and a half on the Kinsey scale. Dickie, Doctor Jeffers to you, and I go a long way back, but I got married and had kids, while he kept the faith and stayed with boys. Sometimes I think life would’ve been a whole lot simpler if I’d have gone off with him, instead of marrying Miriam. Anyway, my grandson says he loves you and you two are having sex.”

“Uh, well, uh, I, you see . . .”

“Calm down, okay? Look, Zach, I don’t know what Jeremy said to you, but I understand young love. Hell, Dickie and I certainly had a good time when we were your age, well, we started a bit younger because Dickie knew he was gay very early. So, do you love my grandson?”

“Sir, uh, Bud, I like Jeremy a lot, but he’s got two years of high school to go through and, well, I’m in college and I already have a boyfriend, or at least I think I do. I really don’t know what’s going on. I want both of them, but I know Jeremy is going to find someone his own age or he’s going to go back to Switzerland. There’s no way our relationship can get closer.”

“Zach, for starters, Jeremy and Paul will not go back to Switzerland. That woman doesn’t want them. I’ve spoken to her and she’ll let them visit, but they’ll have to come back here. For now, they’ll live here at Four Cedars. I don’t foresee them ever living with that man who is unfortunately the result of not wearing a condom when I should have. But, you said you have a boyfriend?”

“Yeah, well, Steven has issues and doesn’t deal with love very well. He had a breakdown last night and his aunt had to put him in Fir Grove this morning. He kind of tried to kill himself with a dull knife. I know I’m in love with him, but I don’t know if it will work out in the long run. What I do know is that I’m too old for Jeremy. I like him a lot, maybe love him, but he needs to find someone his own age. I don’t want to hurt him, but we can’t be more than really good friends.”

“He scares you, doesn’t he? No, it’s alright, I understand. Jeremy is a remarkable young man. We all thought he was straight, like his friend Roger, but obviously there was another side to Jeremy none of us understood. How do you propose letting him go?”

“I don’t know. I don’t want to hurt him if I can avoid it. I just wish I can find him someone closer to his own age. Someone closer to his, well, your, you know, your people.”

“Feel a little intimidated by all the money?”

“Yeah, a little. We had money. Heck, I had fifty thousand in the bank when I got here, but I know that’s a pittance compared to what Jeremy has.”

“Actually, Jeremy doesn’t have fifty thousand. He just has the trappings by having rich parents and an even richer grandfather. We don’t purposefully raise our kids to think they’re rich. My son was an exception that I regret to this day. He has no sense of social responsibility. And, after that stunt this weekend, he’ll be lucky to have a life. Men like him don’t survive in prison and he’s going to prison if I have my say.”

“So, what do I do about Jeremy?”

“My advice is to continue to see him, practice safe sex at all times, and let him decided how long it has to go on. Don’t let him push you around. If he’s calling you too much, tell him to stop. If he’s being a bother, tell him to ease off. That little incident the two of you had in the dressing room might have been fun, but don’t let it happen again. Keep a condom in your wallet, for god’s sake. Bare backing may be fun, but it’s dangerous as hell these days no matter who might be a virgin.”

“Okay, sir, I’ll wait and see. I suppose it’s for the best anyway.”

“You can’t call me Bud, can you?”

“I wasn’t brought up that way, sir.”

“I understand. Dickie had that problem for a long time, too.”

“Doctor Jeffers? I don’t understand.”

“He was the son of our butler. Dad paid for his education, all the way to his doctorate. I think Dickie called me sir until we were sophomores. Weirdest thing, too. Never could understand his subservience. Then he became my best friend and we’ve been Bud and Dickie ever since. He was my best man at my wedding and the godfather of our daughter Lisa.”

“I guess I’d better go, sir.”

“Yeah, you take it easy and be nice to Jeremy. What did you get Paul?”

“A word processing program. Jeremy said Paul needed one.”

“Spend too much money?”

“On one of your grandsons? No, I can never spend too much on them.”

“Paul told me, too.”

Zach looked at Bud.

“Don’t look so shocked. I think it’s neat what you did. Now, we all know Paul is gay. There’s no doubt about that kid. And, what you gave him is worth more than you know. You’re not in the business are you? It was just a one time thing, right?”

“Yes, sir, a one time thing. My boyfriend is in the business and was trying to get me involved, too, for the money, but it’s not worth the money you get. And, thank you, sir, for being understanding.”

“Good, now, go take my grandson out for a hamburger or something. He doesn’t need to be moping around here because his brother got all the presents. And, Zach?”

“Yes, sir?”

“If you need anything, anything at all, ask me. If I can’t get it, I might know someone who can. Anything, Zach, anything.”

“Yes, sir, thank you.”